Nation in denial on religious revolution

Nation in denial on religious revolution, by Paul Kelly.

Religious freedom is the missing element in this election yet it is a pivotal issue. The certainty, post-election, is that new laws will be put by the incoming government with the potential to alter fundamentally the discretion enjoyed by religion in this country. These laws will vary dramatically depending on whether it is a Morrison or Shorten government.

Religious schools have effectively been put on notice by Labor. For Labor, LGBTI rights will be a priority issue if it forms government. …

Labor gets infuriated when confronted by the consequences of its policies and the winding back of religious freedom, which it proposes yet keeps trying to deny. The previous parliament broke amid an embittered deadlock; it was unable to agree on new laws to protect LGBTI students at religious schools yet ensure such schools retained the right to pursue their mission of religious education.

This is not just a lawyers’ technical dispute about how to reconcile competing interests between religious freedom and LGBTI rights. It is a Liberal-Labor conflict over values, interests and religion. This is the documented reality despite the self-interested denials often from both sides.

The revelatory point last year came when Labor refused to accept a government amendment to its bill saying it was not unlawful to engage in teaching activity if that activity “(a) is in good faith in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed; and (b) is done by, or with the authority of, an educational institution that is conducted in accordance with those doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings”. …

Attorney-General Porter said: “Labor’s bill completely removes the ability of religious educational institutions to maintain their ethos through what they teach and the rules of conduct they impose on students. This is because Labor’s bill would, for the first time, expose religious schools to litigation under the Sex Discrimination Act merely because they impose reasonable rules, such as requiring students to attend chapel.”